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Auto Show : 2012 Chicago Auto Show

Kia Track'ster Concept: Chicago Auto Show

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author photo by Nick Palermo
  • Track-ready in appearance and substance, with flared body and more power
  • Carbon fiber and billet aluminum details
  • 250-horsepower turbocharged engine

Mention the Kia Soul, and many will be reminded of the hugely popular dancing hamsters that are featured in ads for the compact car. But here at the Chicago Auto Show, Kia unveiled a Soul-based concept that's a completely different animal. The Kia Track'ster concept has two fewer doors than the Soul. It is a race-ready machine with a flared body, upgraded suspension and brakes, more power and a host of details that add the appearance and the substance for high performance driving.

The soul of the Soul is evident in the Track'ster, but other than a basic shape that includes a roofline that tapers toward the rear and a relatively upright windshield, the concept is a significant departure from its economical road-going sister. The Track'ster is five inches wider, with flared fenders shrouding staggered-width wheels and tires - 19-inch HRE-K1s with 245-series Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 rubber up front and 285-series out back. The Track'ster's stance is low and aggressive, its wheelbase stretched by an inch and its rear side doors eliminated. Carbon fiber and billet aluminum details save weight and contribute to the sporty look. Scoops and vents in the body work swallow up and exhaust air to cool components and let the engine breathe.

Inside, the backseat is eliminated to lighten the load and free up space for a tool kit and spare. Heavily bolstered seats are swathed in Inferno Orange suede and Granite Gray leather. The gray color carries over to the suede-covered door panels and steering wheel. Gears are selected through a short shift lever with joystick-style base instead of a boot.

Under the Track'ster's aggressive skin is a 250-horsepower, turbocharged 2-liter delivering power to all four wheels through a six-speed manual transmission. Brakes and suspension are upgraded for performance. Six-piston Brembo front calipers clamp down on 14-inch cross-drilled and vented rotors. Rear brakes use four-piston calipers and 13.6-inch calipers. Suspension is lowered, and the chassis is stiffened with a rear strut brace.

The Track'ster may resemble the Soul, but Kia says its spirit is more aggressive canine than fuzzy rodent.

"The idea was to make the Track'ster tough looking, like a bulldog. But the car had to be approachable as well," said Tom Kearns, chief designer for Kia Motors America. "We wanted to base the car in reality so people instantly knew it was a Soul, but with a lot of attitude. It had to be a bold interpretation that would change people's conceptions of what a sporty Kia could be."

The Track'ster certainly brings the tough attitude and look. While a track-ready version of the Soul with just two seats may seem an unlikely production car, a vehicle that falls somewhere between this track-ready concept and the more conventional Soul may be a good fit for Kia.

What it means to you: It has the soul of a Soul, but Kia's Track'ster Concept is a race-ready, 250-horsepower all-wheel drive animal.

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Kia Track'ster Concept: Chicago Auto Show